THE HOLIDAY season would be a lot easier if we didn't have to go shopping, stand in lines and add to our already overscheduled stressed-out lives, right? If only life were simpler. But, since it isn't, I've assembled a holiday fitness gift-giving guide to make it a lot easier.
This holiday season give loved ones the gifts that keep loving 'em back. To get you started, here's my short list of the best fitness- and health-related gifts:
Lateral elliptical: I have always loved elliptical trainers, so much so that I even purchased one for home use years ago (though I have since given it to a relative). But now I am really loving the new lateral elliptical trainers. The manufacturer claims that you burn 27 percent more calories, and while I can't vouch for the accuracy of that claim, I can definitely say that I experience a more intense workout in a shorter period of time. What I love most about the lateral elliptical is its versatility. The lateral elliptical moves forward, backward, side to side - in short, a multidirectional, low-impact powerhouse. My personal favorite is the Octane Lateral Elliptical. Check out the website at octanefitness.com for a variety of models and prices. Expect to pay about $6,300 for the top-of-the-line club version, or as low as $199 for more modest home versions.
Gift of swimming: Young or old, swimming lessons make the perfect gift for the aqua enthusiast who wants to master the skill of swimming. Swimming is excellent exercise and recreational fun, and knowing this skill could possibly save your or someone else's life. Group lessons are reasonably priced and available all over the city, at your local YMCA, Swim America, Kroc Center and private clubs. Average rates for private one-on-one lessons start around $50 per lesson. Available at ymca.org, swimamerica.org, salvationarmykroccenter.org.
Health-club gift membership: Health clubs abound throughout the Philadelphia region. If you're considering a health-club membership gift, look for one close to home and no more than 2 miles away. The more convenient the location, the more likely the person will attend regularly. Not only do large clubs offer spacious facilities, they also offer a variety of group fitness classes, personal fitness trainers, pools, basketball and squash courts, and more. With the increased demand, prices for gym memberships have continued to go down, and now average gym memberships start as low as $399 a year.
Power wheel: The power wheel takes core training to a whole new level. Similar to an exercise wheel, but larger, the power wheel connects to your feet while performing pikes, push-ups, leg-curls and more. The power wheel is a little big gym for your core and only costs about $60. Available at performbetter.com.
Activity trackers & pedometers: Activity trackers and pedometers are all the rage! There are about 50 manufacturers, with Nike, Striiv, Jawbone, Garmin and Fitbit leading the pack. Prices generally range from $25 on up. Available at amazon.com.
Heart-rate monitors: Heart-rate monitors help you stick to your target heart rate and really optimize your workout. If you want to keep a tab on calories burned, too, then the Polar FT-1 is the answer. You can find this product online at polar.com - cost: about $70.
Jump for joy: Challenge a jump-rope enthusiast with a weighted jump rope. Weighted jump ropes offer a kick-butt full-body exhaustive workout in as little as 10 minutes. Weighted ropes range from 1 pound up to 6 pounds, and range in price from $27 to $65. Available at performbetter.com.
Forearm grippers: Hand grippers strengthen the hands, wrists and forearms. This small and portable piece of equipment is perfect for anyone needing to strengthen his grip, and especially good for athletes and musicians. Hand grippers are available in a variety of styles and range in price from $9.99 to $40. Available at modells.com.
Fruit-basket surprise: Seasonal orchard fruit delivered fresh may be just what the doctor ordered. Why not think out of the box this year and send someone wellness in a box? Companies such as Harry & David and the Fruit Company offer dazzling displays of delicious and nutritious fruit, and you can even arrange to have a different fruit sent monthly. Prices range from about $18 on up. Available at thefruitcompany.com or harrydavid.com.
Amazing digital food scales: Food-scale technology has come a long way and now it's easier, more portable and affordable. You can slip these tiny devices in your purse and never overeat at the restaurant or at home again. Prices range from $8 on up. Available at amazon.com.
Gift of iron: Believe it or not, cooking with cast-iron pots offers one of the best ways to sneak this much-needed mineral into your diet. Iron is essential for growth, normal cellular functioning, hormonal synthesis and more. Say bye-bye to Teflon and hello to cast iron. Cast-iron pots are available in the traditional gray/black color for a set less than $30, or if you like the high end, go for the cast-iron porcelain pots that average around $50 per pot. Available at bedbathbeyond.com.